Seti And You

Those who are regular readers are doubtlessly aware that now has a SETI@home team.

For a few weeks now the team has been adding members and the last time I checked the stats we had one hundred thirty six members.
A fair show of strength but short, I am sure, of what this site is capable of mustering!

To everyone who has signed on to the team, I welcome you. To others who are SETI members but not a member of our team, I ask, “Why not?” If you have not joined any team, please seriously consider the SETI Team. What can it hurt?

We’re nice guys. We don’t bite……or hit……. or cry. Whimper a little but not cry. (Keep in mind I am speaking for myself here). And if you have not yet even signed on to SETI@home, I have to ask once again, “WHY NOT!!”.

This is your chance to do something interesting and positive with your computer. Contribute! Participate! Be one of the team. Well, anyway, that’s how I felt when I signed up. Sorta.

It would seem as if everyone should by this time know about SETI@home. If you don’t, the S@H project has been officially up and running for over a year and a half, but it was just last May that I became aware of what it is. Oh, I knew of SETI: “The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence”. Hunting for Little Green Men. The movie “Contact”, Jodie Foster, life on other planets.

Of course I knew what SETI was! I don’t live in a cave, you know. But still, back in May, although I had seen SETI mentioned numerous times by people running stress tests or doing benchmarks on their computers, I didn’t have a clue that they were doing the same work as Jodie.

It’s that acronym thing. I was a member of our armed forces so I became very familiar with the meaning of SNAFU. That one never confused me. I am a building designer who has used CAD for years. Computer Aided Design (known that one for years). But see, this is where it gets tricky. Like last week when I saw a reference to a computer tech site named CAD. I had no doubt that the site dealt with computer aided design till I browsed to it and found it was really named for Control-Alternate-Delete. Oops! Not my CAD.

Acronyms can be abbreviations for things other than those you expect. I knew that. So when I saw SETI mentioned on tech sites I naturally assumed it wasn’t THAT SETI. Oops. Wrong again.

The same SETI that is used by all us computer types as a tweaking stress test or informal benchmarking program is also the honest-to-goodness search for those little green guys. A really versatile program, don’t you think?

So what can SETI do? You know about the search for life outside our neck of the woods. This is real science doing a real project to which the average person can make an effortless contribution. It’s a win-win situations. While your computer is crunching numbers on those SETI work units, you can keep track of how long the units are taking to process. Voila’ A benchmark program.

On an idle machine, SETI will use 100 percent of your systems resources and is therefore quite useful as a long running stress test to determine system stability after doing performance tweaks. For those with cooling systems that have the CPU hovering around zero degrees Celsius, SETI can be used to keep temperatures significantly above normal idle temperatures and avoid potential condensation problems…….sort of like a Rain program in reverse.

So last May I found the S@H home page, downloaded the command-line client, and started processing work units. On my initial visit to the S@H site, one of the first things I took note of was the array of statistics of which they keep track: each individuals total time, CPU time, work units, rank with respect to other users by number and percentage are just some of the items tracked. Also, leader lists are compiled in various categories.

From the first, the format of SETI appealed to me. My dirty little secret is…..I LIKE TO WIN. There, I’ve said it. The cat is out of the bag. I know it is not considered PC (politacally correct not personal computer) currently to be competitive, but what the hell, I’m a man, you have to make allowances.

I view SETI as a race. The object of the race is to do well, or as well as you can do.

One of the first things you realize when starting to accumulate Work Units and analyzing the statistics is that you will never be number one. Get over it! Also know that if you are just starting now and do not have 20 or more computers available to you, you will not even crack the top one thousand.

The point for individuals is that there are many goals and milestones you can shoot for: being in the top 90 percent, then 95 and then 99; hitting your first 100 units, then 500 and 1000. With a little effort, THESE are attainable goals.

In addition to all the individual goals, you can help a team to succeed. This does not effect your individual statistics at all. You are showing support for your favorite web site. This IS your favorite, right? This is not just any old lame team you will be joining.

As of today, we entered the top 100 list at position 152 (not a typo, they list 200). Talk about take no prisoners! We hot! We bad! We also have one of the better “Average CPU times per work unit” of those on the list. So get on board! Join the team!. Be a part of a well oiled machine……or something……JUST JOIN!!.

  • The Seti@Home
    home page can be found here.
  • You can download the text only version here
    For Windows users the file you want is "i386-winnt-cmdline.exe" for
    fast running.
  • I also recommend using SetiWatch,
    SetiLog, and SetiBuf.
  • Go here
    to check our stats and join our team.

So come join our team, but don’t ever quit. When people leave a team they take their units with them and you wouldn’t want to piss us off. We bawl easy.

Currently number four on the team.  But watch out number
three, I’m gainin on ya.

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